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Helsinki Commission Hearing on The Impact of Organized Crime and Corruption on Democratic and Economic Reform Announced

WASHINGTON — Today the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe announced a forthcoming hearing:

The Impact of Organized Crime and
Corruption on Democratic and Economic Reform
Thursday, March 23
2:30—4:30 p.m.
Room 485
Russell Senate Office Building
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C.
Open to Members, Staff, Public and Press

Scheduled witnesses include:

Panel I:
Rob Boone, Assistant Secretary for Narcotics and International Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State
James K. Weber, Deputy Assistant Director, Investigative Services Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation
John Tennant, Deputy Assistant Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development

Panel II:
Adrian Karatnycky, President, Freedom House
Nancy Lubin, President, JNA Associates, Inc.

Other witnesses have been invited.

Background: Organized crime and corruption threaten not only economic development but also the expansion of democracy, the promotion of civil society and security in the OSCE region, particularly in the countries of southeast Europe and Central Asia. Ambassador Robert Barry, Head of the OSCE’s Mission in Bosnia has called political leaders working with organized crime a “significant threat” to the region’s security. Wolfgang Petritsch, the High Representative for Dayton Implementation says that corruption is the “biggest obstacle” to successful implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

In a recent report, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) singled out bribe demands in the former communist bloc as a main cause of economic failures. According to the report, “Companies spend considerable resources in lobbying state officials, paying bribes and adjusting to state interference …A key challenge remains the effective ‘depoliticization’ of firms through further market reforms and measures to constrain state ‘capture’ by private interests.”

This hearing, the second in a series, will examine the impact of organized crime and corruption in southeast Europe and Central Asia and both regional and international efforts to address this threat.

The United States has a strategic interest in promoting democratic reform and stability in southeast Europe and the former Soviet Union, provides a substantial amount of bilateral assistance to the countries in the region and assists U.S. businesses exploring market opportunities.

The Helsinki Commission has pressed for greater OSCE involvement in efforts to combat corruption. The 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit Charter recognized the multidimensional threat posed by corruption. The OSCE Permanent Council is currently examining ways of contributing to efforts to combat corruption and is expected to report to OSCE Foreign Ministers later this year.

In addition, the Eighth Annual Meeting of the OSCE Economic Forum, scheduled for Prague, April 11 -14, 2000 will examine the impact of corruption on institution building and the rule of law in the context of post-conflict rehabilitation.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will focus on “OSCE Challenges in the 21st Century—Good Governance: Regional Cooperation, Strengthening Democratic Institutions, Promoting Transparency, Enforcing the Rule of Law and Combating Corruption” during its annual meeting in Bucharest, July 6-10, 2000.

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